Mother's pride is obvious – Judy packs a punch

Far from a pushy parent but clearly Murray's No 1 supporter on the sidelines
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The Independent Online

In some of the smaller tennis stadiums around the world you do not even have to look around to know that Judy Murray is there supporting her son. Perhaps it is a mother's instinct that makes her cry out "Come on, Andy!" in her distinctive Scottish brogue just a fraction of a second before anyone else in the crowd.

She will do well to make her voice heard above the clamour of 15,000 spectators inside Rod Laver Arena today for her son's Australian Open final against Novak Djokovic, but you can be sure that he will be looking to her in the key moments.

Judy, who usually sits in the front row of the courtside player box, could write a book about the art of supporting from the sidelines. She knows exactly when to be positive, when to bellow out her support, when to give a nod of encouragement, when to sit expressionless.

Almost every player who reaches the top has had support of parents who have made financial sacrifices, spent long days ferrying their children to and from tournaments and given sympathy in the bad times. Judy and Willie Murray, who separated 13 years ago, were model tennis parents, giving their sons Jamie and Andy the chance to enjoy sport without ever pushing them into doing anything they did not want to do.

Judy was different to most tennis mums in that she knew what it was like to dedicate your early years to the sport. She won 64 junior and senior titles in Scottish tennis and even made a brief attempt to become a professional player. It proved a lonely and dispiriting experience and lasted only a few months. She went on to study languages at Edinburgh University, trained to be a manager at Miss Selfridge and worked as a saleswoman at a confectionery firm before finding her true vocation as a mother and tennis coach.

She became Scottish national coach and still enjoys working with young players when the opportunity arises.She has been involved in a long-term project in Scotland to establish a "European-style community tennis club" which would be a base from which coaches could go out to grow the game at local schools and clubs.

While tennis-coaching mothers are ten-a-penny in the women's professional game, they are rare in the men's. Gloria Connors coached a mean streak into son Jimmy ("I told him to try and knock the ball down my throat and he learned to do this because he found out that if I had the chance I would knock it down his") and Marat Safin worked with his mother in his early years, but of the current generation Denis Istomin and Donald Young are the only players coached by their mothers.

Judy stopped coaching her sons before they reached their teens, but has remained a key figure in their tennis lives. Andy consults her closely about all his major decisions. The days of hitting with him on-court are long gone, but she regularly scouts future opponents. She has done so here, often in the company of Dani Vallverdu, the friend and former hitting partner who has become an increasingly important figure in Andy's entourage over the last six months. Since the world No 5's split last summer with permanent coach Miles Maclagan, Judy has become an even more central figure in Team Murray. She describes her role as "overseeing" the group, ensuring everyone is in the right place at the right time.

Sometimes that also means being the dogsbody. During Wimbledon, when she usually stays with Andy and Kim Sears, his girlfriend, at his Surrey home, she doubles up as chief laundrywoman. Last week she could be seen trudging into Melbourne with a set of rackets to be restrung on the day of her son's semi-final.

Dividing time between her offspring can be difficult, particularly as Jamie's struggles in the last year or two have meant that they are not often at the same tournaments together. When her absence from Andy's player box at one of his matches was pointed out to him in a post-match interview last week, Andy joked: "My brother was playing doubles at the same time, and obviously I'm not the favourite son, so I got bumped."

Andy is not one to express emotions face-to-face, but Judy recalls a Christmas card he sent her. "I'd like to thank you Mum," he wrote, "for always believing in me and supporting me, but I most want to thank you for being the best Mum in the world."

Predictions for the final

Sven Groeneveld (ex-coach of Monica Seles, Michael Stich and Greg Rusedski)

"The first set will set the pace. It will be similar to what you saw in Andy's semi-final – long rallies, physical exchanges. With the weather changing, that will favour Andy. There's always a little bit of an advantage when you have the extra day to prepare, as Djokovic has had, but Andy has the momentum and the rhythm. I think Andy is ready for it."

Henri Leconte (former French Open finalist)

"I take Djokovic to win in four sets. The way he played against Federer was perfect. He has really improved his game and his serve. He is playing so well, he defends so well and has all the shots. I hope Andy is able to forget about losing last year's final. He has the skill and the game, but he has to come more to the net. He defends very well, but he has to go for it."

Caroline Wozniacki (women's world No 1)

"It will be a long but very good match. They know each other very well and they're both great players. It's tough to say who will win. Andy's semi-final was great. I know him because he's part of the adidas team. I wanted to watch the semi-final so I asked [for] a ticket."

Ken Rosewall (winner of eight Grand Slam titles)

"I was really impressed with Djokovic against Federer. That was one of the best matches I've seen him play. The final could be tight. Andy has improved a lot. He's trying to be calmer on court, which helps him, but I'd like to see him attack more. He's very versatile and plays some different shots. I'm leaning towards Djokovic, but Andy's a great competitor and he'll be in there to the end."

Bud Collins (veteran broadcaster)

"I thought from the start of the tournament that Djokovic would win here and I'll take him to win in four sets. His serve has improved and I think his confidence has been sky-high ever since the US Open. It will only have grown with the way he played against Federer. Andy Murray is a wonderful ball-striker, but I'd like to see him punish the short ball more and come to the net more often."

Paul Newman

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